Coach Carter review by Cinema Guru Boy
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I've never thought basketball has made for good movies. Hoosiers was pretty successful, but I didn't see the appeal. What else do we even have to compare? Blue Chips was corny as anything, The Air Up There was a horrible idea from the beginning, The 6th Man should've been benched, and as much as I got a kick out of Celtic Pride, it wasn't the classic we've all been waiting for. So along comes Coach Carter, and director Thomas Carter tries to craft that very classic.
The film starts off with a tour of the inner city, the ghetto, if you will. How do we know it's the inner city, well from the hip-hop music, of course. This is immediately offputting, not only because it's bad music, but it's such a generic tool. If this sets the tone for the picture, it's a bad way to start. But then we get a glimpse of the basketball team in question. They are a terrible team, of course they are, because that's the way these films go. This game, just like all that games in the picture, is very well-choreographed. It looked good, like guys playing ball and not like actors playing pre-planned offenses and defenses. However, what I saw is something that I've never seen in a high school game of basketball. Dunking is a rarity and blocking shots by rotating on another's man and playing above the rim is very over-the-top for high school. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but this made me groan and roll my eyes. But audiences should "oooh" and "ahh" over these plays. So anyway, Ken Carter (Sam Jackson) takes over this pathetic team to make not only winners, but men, out these kids. But they direspect him. Why? Because they're young punks. Now just a thought, but is this whole inner city thing played out? Call it Dangerous Minds with a hoop, and you won't be far off.
So far, Sam Jackson is the saving grace. He has that ability to take a mediocre film and make it average. He has outstanding chemistry with his wife and his son (Robert Ri'chard) who soon joins the team. This has to be credited to Sam. He's just so charismatic. But the material is just too weak for him. It never gives any sort of reason as to why he took this thankless job of coaching a bottom-of-the-barrel team. And a lot of his lines sound like something someone would say in a movie. Sam does what he can, but with a script like this, you can only do so much. When he begins interacting with the boys on the team, he displays that hard edge that he does so well, Sam doing what we all loves watching Sam do: be a hardass. He gives these young punks instant respect and believably intrigues the players into paying him attention. Carter's son wanting to play for him also adds credibility to his coaching and makes him beliveable as a respected authority figure to these young thugs. Another thought, is the thug stereotype overused? We've seen it many times before, and we see it about ten more times in this film. It seems pretty stale. And to add to it, most of the kids' acting was very stiff. Aside from Ri'chard, no actor stood out from the rest of the team, they all felt like the same character split ten ways, and none of them were good at playing that character.
There were a number of script problems. The school's principal (Denise Dowse) was regularly giving Carter a difficult time about pushing academics, but there was never any rationalization behind it. Where was her point of view? Why all the hostility? I was waiting for an answer and it never came. Then there was a mention of Carter planning to attend a faculty meeting, but it never happened. It was incredibly awkward. Was this a deleted scene maybe? And probably the biggest complaint of the film, time and time again, Carter made all these emotional, touching speeches, and the camera panned in slowly for a close-up, and the cheeseball music cued up to exemplify how touching this part of the movie is. This came across as preachy.
However, the movie does take a turn for the better. Rather than strictly being a basketball movie, Carter pushes the concept of the student-athlete, with an emphasis on the student. This will at least set the film aside from other generic sports films. The writers did create a nice bookend device with Carter's insistance of asking one of his players, "What's you biggest fear?" However, the end result is unsatisfying. It goes overboard and is too structured.
All in all, Coach Carter is just too written, too structured, too by-the-template. It's nice to see Sam do his Sam thing, but that's not enough to save a film. A lot of the kids had subplots, some good (dealing with the decision abortion vs. birth with a pregnant girlfriend) some bad (thug player seeing the horrors of turning to a life of drug dealing, mother asking the coach to bend rule for her son's junior college prospects). Seriously, if you;re jonesing for a basketball flick, go rent Celtic Pride
4 out of 10 Jackasses